In the last couple of years, there has been a surge of Americans getting into shooting sports and taking tactical training courses. Since 2020, our company has doubled the courses we run annually and have added several new ones.
Our new course, Mountain Ops, has shown growing interest. Three weeks after we posted it, we had five students sign up and the course was six months away. So why do you think that is?
Is it the mountainous scenery, the escape from city life or the intense workout mountain terrain can provide? It’s these things and so much more. Mountain training benefits shooters who normally train on flat ranges and those looking for a new workout.
The health benefits of mountain training include all of the good elements you receive from training on a flat range — stress relief, elevated heart rate, multiple engagements— but it also has its own set of perks you may not be aware of.
Flat range training can be relatively predictable. For the most part, your path to a target is clear and free of obstacles. If you choose to sprint to a target, you can just lower your center of gravity and just run. The benefits of mountain trails are you have less predictable nature of unpaved terrain.
When moving up and down trails in the mountains, you have to contend with rocks, brush, trees, uneven ground, exposed roots, and anything else nature throws at you.
Your focus must be on point to avoid taking a nose dive. Some paths are more technical and others are little more than a gentle dirt path. The gear you need to operate in the mountains does differ from flat range. More specifically when it comes to shoes, water, and clothing.
Boots should be worn to help you grip uneven terrain. They also feature a reinforced midsole to protect feet from debris and puncture wounds from sticks and sharp rocks.
The primary benefits of boots is their durability, better traction, and more support you need to keep your ankles from rolling on uneven terrain.
1. Mountain Training Builds Strong Legs
While training on a flat range can help build some leg muscles and strength, experienced shooters will find it’s usually not enough exertion to gain greater strength.
Running downhill forces your quads to act as brakes while you are descending. In contrast, running uphill puts more stress on your glutes, which helps your body negotiate climbs and obstacles. Steep trails with a lot of peaks and valleys engage your calves to propel your stride. Mountain trails add jumping, lunging and sprinting into the mix, stimulating those fast-twitch muscles greatly increasing your lower body strength to the next level.
2. Mountain training is excellent for your core.
Are you bored with sit-ups, crunches and planks but still want to strengthen your core? Hike a mountain and you will see. The uneven terrain, quick changes in direction, and the need to focus on balance make for an intense core workout. Standing upright and navigating the different terrain of trails means you have to maintain full-body tension at all times. This full-body tension keeps the core firing in what is essentially a standing plank hold during the entire time. If you are looking to build a stronger core, getting off the flat range and onto to a mountain trail is a far more exciting way to do this than lying on a gym mat staring at a pool of sweat while doing planks.
3. Mountain training can improve Heart health.
Mountains will force you to do extra work to move on unpredictable terrain. Your heart has to work harder. The constantly changing mountainous terrain— going up steep inclines and descents, will increase your cardiovascular fitness differently compared to training on a flat or square bay range.
4. Mountain Training Can Help Manage Stress and Depression
Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Mountain training may be the cure. Combining exercise, which has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression, and time spent in nature, which provides a variety of physiological and psychological benefits, mountain training can be an excellent tool in managing anxiety and improve your overall mental health.
The modern world is full of neon lights, billboards, buzzing cell phones, computer screens and engine noise. A change in your training environment from an urban flat range to a mountainous trail can make you feel undoubtedly less anxious and depressed. Be able to get away from everything to be surrounded by nature, relative silence and fresh air is good for your body and your mind.
5. Mountain Training Makes You Smarter
Due to the high mental challenges mountain terrain provides makes it enhance mental benefits in addition to its positive health and fitness effects. Complex exercise activities involving a cognitive demand increase measures of perception, working memory capacity, and awareness in participants.
In other words, your brain works faster, remembers more, and has a better understanding of where your body is in space — all from simply running on a trail. If you want to create more mental agility, mountain terrain is the perfect challenge for both mind and body.
6. Mountain terrain forces you into unconventional positions.
The natural terrain of a mountain provides you unique opportunities to shoot from positions you normally wouldn’t get into. Flat ranges are generally constructed in square or fan like configurations and the barricades are strategically placed on the range. The purpose of this is to maximize range space and restrict angles of fire. This necessarily isn’t a bad thing because safety is the main objective. However, this can become predictable and repetitive. The varied terrain and vegetation can provide different challenges and restrict you from getting into positions like the prone which you would normally use for longer range shots. Overall mountainous terrain with its random shapes and textures provides a unique opportunity that cannot be matched.
7. Mountainous Terrain produces limited fields of fire and different angles of fire.
The unpredictable flow of mountainous terrain with its vegetation, draws, peaks, and valleys can create unique scenarios that can challenge the most seasoned shooters. Because of this, you may not be able to place targets perfecty. The target may be slightly obscured with light vegetation or can be at angle in such a way that it does not present a full silhouette. Additionally, the targets can be placed at different levels/angles giving you more of a challenge when shooting up hills. Mountainous terrain cannot be matched with different landscapes that provide a plethora of methods to engage targets.
Whether you’re an avid or beginner shooter or highly trained military or law enforcement officer, the mountains have something to offer. Remember to have the proper gear when conducting training in the mountains. Also, start slow, be safe and enjoy the great outdoors. Check out our upcoming Mountain Ops Course at sierraelement.com